PayPal says my mouse mat violates international sanctions

I ordered the ‘Persian rug’ pad from Etsy, and then had my account suspended

PayPal thinks I’m violating international sanctions by buying an English-made “Persian rug” mouse mat from Etsy. My account was suspended and, in an email, which mistook me for the seller, it informed me I was advertising PayPal as a method of payment for items that may originate from Iran. I was warned that my account would be terminated unless I provided evidence of where the mat was made. It’s amusing that PayPal thinks I’m illegally selling rugs, instead of improving my desk décor!
WM, Cambridge

You have fallen victim of a double whammy – PayPal’s inadequate filters and the fact you are buying from a US company. UN sanctions against Iran were lifted in 2016 and UK businesses can buy and sell there, but the US reimposed restrictions in 2018.

PayPal has to operate in accordance with US law. You would think its algorithms would be sufficiently refined to distinguish a Persian rug motif made in Leicester from Iranian contraband, especially given that several thousand items on Etsy have Persia in their name. PayPal is unabashed. “We never lose sight of the fact that we are entrusted to look after people’s money,” it intones. “We have a great responsibility to ensure money is moving around the world in compliance with laws and regulations. Sometimes we have to take a closer look at an account and pause their activity while we conduct a review. We don’t always get it right, but we are determined to do the right thing by our customers.”

It has reinstated your account.

Email your.problems@observer.co.uk. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions

Contributor

Anna Tims

The GuardianTramp

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